Council Elections, May 2013
Little England on the Warpath

The only real story coming out of the elections so far is the continuing crisis of representative democracy. A 31% average vote is hardly a ringing endorsement of anything but public apathy about the electoral process. But, predictably, the mainstream media aren’t much interested. For them, the story is the rise and rise of UKIP.

The mainstream questions are predictable:-

• Has the electorate lurched to the right?
• Is this a protest vote – a blip not a trend?
• Will the Conservatives move further to the right as a result?
• Are the Liberal Democrats finished as a national party?
• What does this mean for Labour?
• What happened to the Greens?

Without full demographic data it’s hard to be sure, but we’re happy to stick our collective necks out and make some general predictions as well as try to answer these questions.

But firstly, let’s put that UKIP vote in perspective. Their average has been variously reported as 25% and 23%. Let’s be generous and take the higher figure and apply it to the potential electorate rather than those who cast a vote last Thursday. That would give UKIP a more understandable – and probably more accurate – 7.75% share of the available vote.

We’d also expect the majority of those casting a vote to be over 45 with little interest among the 18-24 age group for any party or, indeed, for participation.

Maslow groups in 2013

According to CDSM’s 2012 data, Maslow group percentages currently stand at 38% Pioneer, 32% Prospector and 30% Settler – the Settler percentage significantly up from 24% in 2005.

It’s interesting that the Settler percentage began to rise long before the crash of 2008. It reflects unease among those for whom safety and security are the dominant needs – a sense that the good times cannot last for ever. A rise in the Settler percentage means Prospectors are retreating to Settler as economic failure bites and the ‘dream’ turns into more of a nightmare. This process has been going on for eight years and accelerated in 2012. It does much to explain the rise of UKIP.

A ‘lurch to the right’?

The UKIP vote is almost certainly primarily a Settler vote, but CDSM data from surveys in June/July 2012 and November/December 2012 shows a steady expansion towards Brave New World and Golden Dreamer Values ModesTM. If this continues as expected it potentially changes the nature of UKIP’s support and membership and increases the party’s internal tensions. For example, UKIP’s ‘libertarian’ support practically disappeared between June and November 2012. (See maps).

There seems little doubt that UKIP has gained votes from Settlers who might previously have voted Conservative or ‘old’ Labour, but predominantly from the Tories. The Settler "working man’s" UKIP vote would have gone to Margaret Thatcher during her premierships – she got ‘old’ Labour used to voting Conservative. Middle class ‘shire’ Tory Settlers who don’t understand or have no time for hugging hoodies or the Big Society will have responded strongly to UKIP’s more simplistic message.

So the electorate hasn’t ‘lurched to the right’, it’s simply that a significant percentage of those who have exercised their right to vote this time are likely to be Settler. This also goes some way to explain why UKIP’s percentage vote is pretty consistent across the country. It’s values-driven.

UKIP’s colonisation of Brave New World/Golden Dreamer territory is more significant in terms of the future. These Values ModesTM are mad as hell. They see the dream slipping away and are looking for scapegoats. Inevitably, the main scapegoats are ‘the other’ – Europe telling ‘us’ what to do; immigrants who ‘take our jobs’; and benefit scroungers ‘we’ support with ‘our’ taxes. Those who previously voted BNP or NF are likely to have voted UKIP this time and may have joined the party. Indeed, concerns have been raised about the political priorities of some UKIP candidates. Because both Brave New World and Golden Dreamer are ‘active’ Values ModesTM this should be a concern – both for UKIP and for the wider population.

A protest vote?

This is a protest vote in the sense that a general distrust of and disillusion with the Westminster parties will have seen many Prospectors abstain. They are the classic ‘floating voter’ and there are more and more of them as old party loyalties – and old party supporters – die. They are most likely to participate in an election as an ‘event, if it’s ‘cool’ and if they can be sure to side with the ‘winner’. There are no winners these days. With the Westminster parties in the doghouse and Nigel Farage, the public face of UKIP, seen as a pleasant-enough saloon bar ‘bloke’ but a bit of a lightweight, there’s little to appeal to the Prospector voter beyond giving the government a bloody nose – and most of them have more pressing concerns these days.

That, however, may change. With European elections next year, under a system of proportional representation, and UKIP seemingly on a roll, the best way for Prospectors to give the government a good kicking and emerge as ‘winners’ may be to cast a vote for UKIP. The Greens benefited from a Prospector rebellion in the 1989 European elections, gaining 15% of the vote from a baseline ‘too small to measure’ and almost certainly exclusively Pioneer (and Concerned Ethical at that). Nigel Farage also benefits from being perceived as the only ‘non-professional’ party leader on offer. He comes across with a simple message, clearly and unapologetically articulated in contrast to the ‘spin’ and obfuscation other party leaders can be accused of.

For classic Settlers, however, this is not a protest. It’s an attempt to reclaim a sense of identity and belonging by looking where Settlers always look – to the past. Settlers don’t recognise this country any more and they want to feel ‘British’ – or more accurately, ‘English’ – again. They are driven by fear of ‘the other’ – the unknown and unfamiliar – whether that be Europe interfering in ‘our’ business, an influx of immigrants who are patently ‘different’ or ‘benefit scroungers’ who get council houses when their children can’t and are supported by ‘hard-working people’ while they sit on their backsides and breed. This Settler support is nothing to do with racism or proto-fascism. The England they remember and hanker for no longer exists and arguably never did. John Major’s much ridiculed ‘Back to Basics’ conference speech, evoking cricket on the village green and old maids cycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist, is exactly the England that Settlers want. Nigel Farage is a poor substitute for Winston Churchill but he’s plainly a ‘good bloke’, ‘one of us’ – and, frankly, he’ll do. He’s a toff but not a toffee-nosed toff like those Eton boys Cameron and Osborne. He’d buy his round. And he’s a character, a bit of an eccentric and resolutely non-PC. The English have always had a soft spot for eccentrics. The people who respond well to Boris Johnson probably do so for the same reason.

Where racism and proto-fascism may enter the equation is through the expansion into Brave New World/ Golden Dreamer territory. Because these are ‘active’ Values ModesTM, the potential for their anger and drive to be winners to influence or challenge UKIP’s current leadership is real. Those with prescience may wish to remind themselves of the circumstances that led to the rise of Germany’s National Socialists. We see some uncomfortable parallels.

Will the Conservatives move further to the right?

If they do they will be fighting on UKIP’s territory and for the same constituency. Thatcherite Conservatives will be very comfortable in Mr Farage’s company and his values will resonate with theirs. That has to be a real worry for the current Conservative leadership.

So what happened to ‘compassionate Conservatism’? In a sense it was always a contradiction in terms and a pretty fruitless exercise in rebranding – free market economics and compassion don’t sit comfortably together, but David Cameron started his working life as a PR man and probably felt he had to give it a try. Margaret Thatcher dealt the death blow to ‘one nation’ Toryism and the post-War consensus: you can’t breathe life into a corpse.

The most important and only real motivator for Conservatives is the acquisition and exercise of power. They will do whatever it takes. They are, after all, the party of pragmatism.

Are the LibDems finished?

Almost certainly as a national party. The Lib Dems have traditionally been the repository of the ‘conscience’ vote, appealing almost exclusively to Pioneers except for the 2010 General Election. With the televised leaders’ debates making Nick Clegg a ‘star’ – ‘I agree with Nick’ became an election meme – the LibDems became a party Prospectors could vote for and be ‘cool’. Their percentage soared as a result.

By going into coalition with the Conservatives and participating in a government that deeply offends against Pioneer values of benevolence, universalism and compassion the LibDems made what may prove to be a fatal strategic error. Far from mitigating the worst effects of Conservative policies they are increasingly seen as lame ducks providing legitimacy for a government whose every action Pioneers deplore. Prospectors don’t vote for lame ducks and Pioneers don’t vote for people who don’t share their values. It’s hard to see how the party as it stands can survive as a national force, though it will continue to have a presence locally where its ‘pavement politics’ is well-developed.

What does this mean for Labour?

Some older ‘old Labour’ (ie, Settler) votes will have gone to UKIP, but Labour and the Greens are now the only acceptable repository for the Pioneer vote. If you discount the low turn out and the fact that the whole country – and especially London - didn’t have elections, Labour’s vote has held up well.

Ed Miliband’s ‘one nation’ message is profound and resonates very strongly with Pioneer values. He also knows the value of building strong, grassroots organisations. The more passionate and dynamic – and truly radical – he can be, the more he will appeal to this core constituency. And the more he looks like a contender, the more likely he is to attract Prospector votes.

There is no way we can see that Labour can appeal to disgruntled Settlers who voted UKIP without compromising their Pioneer vote.

They will also need to reach out to and inspire young people who do not vote and/or are not registered to vote. Not only are they a large untapped constituency but they represent the future.

The 2015 General Election will be a values war and the outcome could determine the country’s core values for a generation.

What happened to the Greens?

‘Act locally, think globally’ is a Green meme – and that’s the way they’ve always proceeded. It’s a long, slow process especially under FPtP, as the LibDems will attest. So the Greens have done okay but are now too nationally ‘established’ to be much of a repository for a protest vote. They had their moment in the spotlight in the European Elections 1989 and almost tore themselves apart as a result. Additionally, the Greens are the antithesis of what our Settler ‘protester’ is looking for.

It may be that the Greens talk too much sense to be heard in the fevered 24/7 news cycle of the Westminster village. The media is looking for characters and stories. The Greens are talking about policy – and they do it so earnestly. Like much of the wider Green movement their Concerned Ethical orientation can make them appear patronising and self-righteous. On the ground, where they can meet people face to face, they do well, hence their good showing in these elections.

The Greens also suffer from having few known ‘faces’. Caroline Lucas, their only MP, is a formidable speaker and excellent when she gets some media coverage – but she’s alone. And the party’s ambivalence about power now means that Natalie Bennett, not Caroline, is Green Party ‘leader’, producing yet more confusion for the electorate.

Conclusion and Questions

If this type of analysis is heeded the 2015 General Election is likely to contain a component of a ‘values war’ – not so much Left/Right as compassionate universalism versus authoritarian individualism.

Based on a values analysis, UKIP’s share of the available vote is very unlikely to rise beyond a high 20%. However, they are well placed to do much damage to the prospects of a Conservative majority.

It is likely that the local elections last week attracted more Golden Dreamers to UKIP. If this is the case then they will have made a breakthrough to national party status in terms of representing the values of a significant proportion of the population. Though far short of the numbers identifying with the two larger parties, they make a more logical partner for the Conservatives in any coalition government.

If Labour was unable to establish a government based on the numbers of voters favouring them on election day they may have an option of forming a coalition with the Party whose supporters share values with many Labour voters – the Liberal Democrats.

Could it be the role of the Liberal Democrats to be “king makers” once again? But with a different partner?

Could UKIP become the new kingmakers? Taking their place in the Palace of Westminster and providing a whole new dynamic within the Westminster Bubble?


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